I read again and again that the Covid 19 killer virus is in our care homes, and as my own mother lives in a retirement village/care home it is frightening to read.  However, I cannot help feeling that this is being a little unfair on some carers who are trying to fight this virus, but could sum up the lack of clarity and practical help and training.

My own experience of watching care givers is one of total admiration and it must be heart-breaking to watch those they have grown to love die of a virus that they have no control over.  It must be made so much worse by them knowing that the elderly are being sent back to the care homes with the virus and no testing…..how could anyone do that?  Human decency alone would tell you to keep them away for others.

It cannot be nice for relatives to know that their loved ones died alone in the very place where they were supposed to safe, and I worry about my own mother but thankfully she can shut the door and not let anyone in as she does not need a carer….however, I have told her if it got to that point that one of her children would move in as there is no way that a stranger no matter how lovely they are would be looking after her, as sadly this virus is here to stay and we will have to get used to living with it and that is a frightening prospect.

I am struggling to understand how hospitals can send the elderly home knowing they had the virus as they are clever people and surely must have known that this virus would spread?  I am sure that the hospital staff themselves were devastated over this but if that was government policy then they would have been duty bound to follow it.  We must ask those who gave the policy order to justify what they had done.

There are several questions that need asking.

Who decided the policy?

Was advice given by a government body?

Why was it decided that it was acceptable for care homes to be sent back patients that were covering from Covid 19?

Did the hospital inform the care staff to make suitable isolation arrangements before the patient was delivered back?

If not why?

Have the statistics been taken off those who were returned home and then infected others?  Would this have resulted in the higher than normal death rate?

Why are the statistics not upto date? 

Upon returning the infected patient did the government follow up with  assurance and offer extra help to try and isolate in the form of PPE to prevent further hospital admissions?

Had the homeowners knowingly allowed a patient back with the Covid 19 and informed the relatives of those living in the home and giving them the option of taking their relative out?

Have lessons been learned and a plan put into order to try and prevent the 2nd wave infection?

Are the care homes and care givers ready for the 2nd wave?

Has a special force been created to offer help, advice and training for care homeowners and staff?

The government must push forward with the testing and offer all support to the universities who are racing to create the vaccine and this vaccine and testing must be offered to those in the care homes, as they are living in a very large petri dish otherwise, and we owe it to our elderly population to do so as they are sometimes living 30 plus in a place.  My mother lives in a place with some 300 plus residents and the virus is in there and it is terrifying. 

Those who are the most at risk along with key workers should be the first ones to be given this as otherwise you will only repeat the death toll again and again, and when you have a lot of virus infected patients then you will put the care givers at risk and it is just going round and round.

I know that the costs are expensive, and some people will tut, but can we really afford to just be wishy washy with our most vulnerable?  What next the disabled?  We need to protect our elderly and our children as you find they are the ones most likely to come into contact with key workers and being the daughter of an elderly woman and the grandmother of 3 youngsters I can tell you that they are all important to me, and as a 50 something woman I am not ready to let my mother go.  It was hard enough when my father died some 15 years ago, and I love the fact that I can speak to my mother everyday and do we really think so little of them to let this go on?

Setting up a task force for me would be the best way to deal with this.  You can have a district by district task force and whose intervention could often be the difference between life and death, after all we know that 84% of care homes are privately owned and it is not the responsibility of the government to provide PPE, and those places do charge a lot of money and with a task force putting the same rules into place and forcing the home owners to carry a good amount of PPE then there is a starting chance.  To have isolation rules in place that are the same all over the country. 

The Armed Forces are the best to look at as they have part one and part two orders and when you go from one base to another you can pick up where the previous person left off because the training is regimented throughout, and only with a regimented training can this work.

It needs to be:

Carry a large stock of PPE for emergencies.

Ensure that isolation rules can be put into place rapidly in any emergency.

Have a list of care givers who will move in to prevent the virus from being taken in (as I know one care giver who is at a party with some 20 others and I feel so sorry for those who are under her wing as she is putting their lives at risk).

Having temperatures taken regularly to ensure that any hint of the virus can be dealt with.

Have an MDT in place with the hospital ensuring that no sick patient will be returned.

Allow relatives the opportunity to remove their loved one without loss of room and a reduced rate as this could save many lives.  There would have to be a suitable handover and minimise the risk of any patients.  The occupant would not be allowed to return until they and the home are risk free.

Ensure a contractual agreement with the GP to force a home visit should there be a requirement during the virus and for decisions to be taken to admit to a hospital and not returned until risk free.

(Doctors should not be the ones to state they will not visit as the elderly can often suffer from other symptoms and medical issues should not be left in the hands of care staff).  A care plan for Covid 19 should be in place as living with this virus will become the normal.

Full training given to staff on what to look for in Covid 19 and decisions should be taken for isolation with the on-duty care manager.  This would mean leaving at least 3 rooms spare in the care home at the furthest point away if necessary, the larger the care home the more rooms should be made available. A heavy-duty door should be in place to ensure that the rooms are cut off from the others.  

Ensure that when the vaccine is available that all those who take up residency are fully vaccinated and a care plan in place should it be an annual injection.

I know I am probably teaching people to suck eggs and for that I apologise but I decided to write this after talking to my mother and I was aghast to realise that they are providing nothing.    My mother gets one phone call a week but there are no staff in the building other than security and that is scandalous. 

What good is a phone call?  I have had to contact a local church to arrange food parcels for people in the place and whilst I have made sure mother has her food of which my son in law is dropping off, and that of her friends there are too, but there are elderly in there who are scared and nervous, and nobody for them to turn too.  The cheapest option again and again.

Why have they not gotten a policy in place.  Where are the staff?  Why are carers not given a temperature check when they go in?  Since when has it been acceptable for a retirement village to have no staff in especially when there are some who need care?

I think during this pandemic we will find the heroes and villains at some point as some of the  most vulnerable have been abandoned, and that is what go me thinking about the things that I would like to see done and who knows it could all be in place, and I hope so I really hope so as when this has quietened down you will find that relatives will be seeking lawyers to sue the care homes for the danger they put their relatives in.

There really are no winners in this.